Saturday, 15 July 2017

12 Wrestlers on the Rise

When I first started regularly attending live #BritWres shows over a decade and a half ago, the chances of seeing a wrestler that was very good and yet virtually unknown was incredibly slim.  While the industry for the most part was still in the doldrums and the internet was still in it's infancy, the dearth of wrestlers meant that anyone with a modicum of talent was quickly found.  These days, in a thriving industry, there are so many talented wrestlers developing all over the country that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of them all.  It is no surprise, fans' attention is split between an inordinate amount of promotions and there just is not enough time to attend all of the shows and watch all of the footage available.

I'm no different, I've attended my fair share of shows this year (36 at the time of writing this) and have watched plenty on tape, and yet there are still huge swathes of the country I have not even seen any wrestling from.  I imagine it is the same for most fans, few will remember a time that Travis Banks was a virtual unknown on the scene, however when he made his PROGRESS debut in Camden, it seemed like few except a contingent of northern fans had seen him before or recognised who he was (even though he wasn't wearing his Timmy Mallett hat).

So, in an effort to keep informed on the up and comers, the under appreciated, the blue chippers, the can't misses, I'm writing this article.  Hopefully it'll be the first in a series and will force me to get out further a field and watch more new talent.  Ideally, it'll spark some discussion (hit me up on Twitter - @CLinay) and people will come forward with new wrestlers for me to check out.

To get things started, I'm going to talk about twelve wrestlers that I have seen live recently and that I think deserve more eyes on their work and more opportunities to do said work.  Now obviously, this is based on the shows I have seen this year so it is heavily skewed towards Manchester, the West Midlands and Wales.  In the next instalment, I'll aim to focus on other places.

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12. Abel Stevens (@TheAbelStevens)

For someone that only started wrestling on shows this year, Abel shows an incredible amount of poise and presence in the ring.  His effeminate persona walks a difficult line in the modern day but I’ve never seen it used in a cheap or negative way which is highly commendable both to him and the promotions he wrestles in.  He is very good at getting and sustaining a reaction from the crowd, wrestles well within character and has already shown off a few unique moves.  Definitely one to keep an eye out for on upcoming Futureshock shows and on their YouTube Channel.

11. Jumpin’ Jimmy Jackson

Grand Pro Wrestling's long reigning British Champion is an athletic and acrobatic high-flyer that has a myriad of flips and twists in his locker. He brings an abundance of energy to his performance but arguably hasn't had the need to show more depth in character than that thus far.  Personally, I'd like to see him get some matches outside of Grand Pro in the second half of this year and against some people from outside of his regular rotation.


10. Big Joe

A charismatic youngster that has hit the ground running in Grand Pro Wrestling with a character that seems to draw on equal parts from Crash Holly and Scrappy Doo.  Joe has already proven to be great at interacting with the live crowd, working within the confines of his character during matches and possessing great poise on the microphone.  This should not overlook his wrestling ability though, as it was readily apparent that in a recent tag match against involving Bubblegum that 'Gum worked at a much higher and harder pace with Joe than with anyone else and that Joe managed to hold up his end of the work.

9. April Davids (@AprilDavidsLT)

With the continuing growth of women’s wrestling in the country, it should not be long before April Davids beings to get some shots in the larger and more recognised promotions.  A regular in Futureshock, where she is currently a champion, and a number of other northern promotions, this hybrid mixed martial artist and pro wrestler has an aura that belies her diminutive stature.  Davids excels as a no nonsense, no frills heel, attacking in a relentless and vindictive manner and definitely deserves more opportunities than just her three minute encounter with Kay Lee Ray at ICW’s Manchester show earlier in the year.  Her appearances in Lucha Forever appear to be the beginning of her ascent up the chain.

Recommended: Vs. Lana Austin (Highlights)

8. Big T Justice (@bigtjustice)

At seven feet tall, the imposing Big T Justice is never going to struggle to find work in professional wrestling.  At worst he can always serve as the hired muscle for some loud mouthed heel or the big buddy of a blue eye in need of a friend but Big T appears to have much loftier goals.  Easily recognised at training schools throughout the country, Big T has already appeared for some of the bigger promotions in the country, including PCW, IPW:UK and PROGRESS' Freedoms Road shows in minor roles.  It surely will not be long before this hard-hitting giant finds himself on the main shows as the centre of attention.

7. Sexy Kev (@SxyKevLloyd)

While it would be easy to just write Sexy Kev off as a silly male stripper gimmick, there is a lot more substance to the wrestler than that.  Working as a single or a tag (with 'Gentleman' John McGregor), as a blue-eye or a villain, I've never been disappointed with one of Kev's matches.  With a few tweaks, the character could easily go from kid friendly to more serious for the bigger promotions, like a modern day Rick Rude or Val Venis.  If you can track it down, his outing with Damon Leigh in  Futureshock at Underground #19 was very good.

6. Elijah (@ELIJAHWrestler)

This hard-hitting, no-nonsense, Dragon Pro trained wrestler has quickly established himself as one of the top prospects to watch out for in the UK.  A statement only clarified by the fact that he is the replacement for Travis Banks in the #CCK team in the upcoming King of Trios tournament later this year. Upswing will definitely continue as he is a mainstay in ATTACK! and the other promotions in that clique and if PROGRESS do a male Natural Progression Series this year, I would not be surprised to see him in it.  It'll be sooner rather than later that everyone in BritWres will find out, what happened to the passion?

Recommended: Vs. Ryan Smile (Highlights)

5. Philip Michael (@PhilipMichael98)

A technically gifted youngster that has been a part of two stellar matches this year, against Colt Cabana in the first round of the Kris Travis Memorial Tournament and against Martin Kirby at a Preston City Wrestling Academy show.  Both myself and Ben Corrigan (@BritWresAwayDays) have independently likened him to Zack Sabre Jr when Zack was at the same stage of his career.  Has an upcoming match with Doug Williams that should be well worth catching and will hopefully help propel him onto more shows outside of the Preston catchment area.

4. Drew Parker (@drewparker_97)

Perhaps best known for his portrayal of various ECW stars through his 'Extremely Confused' gimmick in ATTACK!  Drew has established himself as a deft hand at the comedic side of pro wrestling.  Disappointment struck at the second night of the Dream Tag Team Invitational where Drew got injured before his match could truly begin but he more than made up for it with a highly entertaining, no holds barred match with El Ligero in Lucha Forever.  With his talent, build and incredible flowing hair, the only way is up for Drew.

3. Matt Brooks (@OperaMattB)

Imagine if Weird Al Yankovic was obscenely ripped and sang in an operatic manner on the way to the ring, if you can picture that, you're not far away from picturing Matt Brooks. OperaMania is truly running wild and Brooks delivers great comedic and character driven matches.  Brooks' presence and charisma has quickly propelled him on to main cards for a number of northern promotions and it will not be too long before he is getting wider recognition.  But, hey, don't just take my word for it...



2. Omari (@OmariM4x2)

Positioned as the standout Young Lion in Fight Club Pro, Omari has been on a tear as of late and has been involved in a number of great matches including a prominent performance in the six person match on the first night of the Dream Tag Team Invitational.  The rangy wrestler's star has only continued to rise in Lucha Forever where he has recently secured big victories over David Starr and Jigsaw.  Already looks perfectly at home with the upper level of talent on the scene and another person that I would not be surprised to turn up in the Natural Progression Series at some point.

1. Soner Dursun (@SonDursun)

More than anyone else on this list, Soner Dursun has been proving on a consistent basis that he is ready to make the next step up on the #BritWres scene.  His 'Dursun vs. The World' run in FutureShock has seen him involved in but not limited to a great match with Flash Morgan Webster and two barnburners with Travis Banks.  Hard-hitting and high-flying Dursun would easily mesh with the top end talent on shows throughout the country and is talented enough to work as either a blue-eye or a villain.  His upcoming match with Mark Haskins in TIDAL will likely be another statement match in his continuing ascent up the ranks and is one that you definitely should not miss.

Recommended: Vs. Travis Banks 2 (Full Match)

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And that's all for now.  Hopefully this has given people an insight into some wrestlers that they have not yet heard of or have not yet had the chance to check out.  If you have any thoughts on the piece, any comments on the list, on who made it, or who hasn't made, feel free to contact me on Twitter -
@CLinay
Cheers
Chris

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Movember Madness: The Top 5 Moustaches In Wrestling History

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of millions of moustaches around the world. With their “Mo’s” men raise vital funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. As an independent global charity, Movember’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.


As it is Movember, we thought we'd take a look at a handful of wrestling's Masters Of The Mo, as we count down the Top 5 Moustaches In Wrestling History.



Honourable mentions and also-rans:
The Iron Sheik, Big Bully Busick, "Ravishing" Rick Rude.

5. Magnum T.A.



If you look up "manly" in the dictionary, you'll find a photograph of Magnum T.A. right alongside it. If you don't, get a new dictionary.

Magnum was once the golden boy of Jim Crockett Promotions, until his career was cut tragically short in a car accident back in 1986, perhaps making him the biggest "What If?" story in wrestling history. Thankfully, the moustache survived.

4. Zeb Colter



While throughout his career Dutch Mantell has sported some of the wildest, and most extravagant facial hair in the business, it's under his current guise as Zeb Colter that his moustache reached a glorious new height. Styled more extravagantly than ever, Colter seems to be transforming week-by-week into a live action Yosemite Sam.

3. Hulk Hogan



The Hogan 'stache is almost certainly the most iconic moustache in wrestling history. Even taken away from the context provided by the Hulkster's face, it's an instantly recognisable pop culture icon, and perhaps one of the most identifiable images in pro-wrestling history.

2. Ox Baker



Ox Baker's moustache is a force unto itself. On its own, it looks like an entity that exists somehow independently of the rest of Baker's face, but coupled with those scowling eyes and the villainously curved eyebrows, it served to give Ox a terrifying, sometimes maniacal, but always intimidating look that has arguably never been equalled.


1. Dan Severn



Dan Severn's moustache may lack the flair or extravagance of some others on this list, and in that respect may be considered something of a controversial choice to take the number one spot, but allow me to explain.

Dan Severn's moustache is a moustache that says no nonsense. It's a moustache that's all about business, with no frills, and no pretense. In that way, more than anyone else on this list, it's a moustache that thoroughly embodies the personality of its wearer. "The Beast" may have had all the personality of a plank of particularly bland wood, but he made up for it with a meticulous in-ring assault, as flawless and as precision-perfect as his immaculately groomed mo', and for that, there's no question in my mind that he should top the list.




Do you disagree with our list? Do you think that perhaps there are some iconic, or just plain magnificent, Mo's out there in the world of wrestling that we have unfairly overlooked? Let us know throughout November, and we'll keep you posted on the all-important debate on really did sport wrestling's finest 'stache.


More importantly, if you're interested in Movember and want to take part, to sponsor a "Mo Bro", or simply to donate to any of the programmes or charities funded by Movember, head on over to www.movember.com right away!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

From The Vaults: "Bomber" Pat on Mitsuharu Misawa

Digging through the vaults of our somewhat daunting body of writing on the subject of professional wrestling, I thought I'd share a little something, that might encourage some discussion.

A few people have asked me whether anything has ever made me question my love of professional wrestling, or put me off the medium altogether. Many things have put me off specific promotions, whether it be for moral reasons, or simple personal preference; the Katie Vick angle put me off WWE for a significant period, for example, but there's one thing that had me questioning my love for wrestling as a whole, and that was the tragic death of Mitsuharu Misawa.

Here's something that I wrote at the time, way back in June 2009;




















For one reason or another, the spirit of Misawa has hung over my every thought, and every attempt at writing I've made since I heard about his passing. I've found myself unable to watch wrestling without thinking of the shadow that's been cast over it.

Let me explain. And, for the benefit of how very many of you will be reading this without knowledge of the event or of the man, I'll start at the beginning.

Mitsuharu Misawa was a hugely talented Japanese wrestler - talented enough to inherit the Tiger Mask gimmick from Satoru Sayama, arguably the greatest Junior Heavyweight of all time, and one half of one of the most influential series of matches in the history of Junior Heavyweight wrestling (along with The Dynamite Kid - a name which will doubtless pop up in this blog again) - in many people's eyes, Misawa was one of the greatest of all time. And that's not the rose-tinted hyperbole usually attached to a performer after their death; even with his tendency to "phone it in" outside of big matches in recent years, Misawa really was that good, having been rated in more "five star matches" by the Wrestling Observer than any other single wrestler.

Sadly, on June 13th, when teaming with Go Shiozaki against Akitoshi Saito and Bison Smith for Pro Wrestling NOAH (a promotion formed by Misawa himself upon his departure from All Japan Pro Wrestling), Misawa landed badly following a routine back suplex, and the resulting spinal cord injury lead to cardiac arrest. Misawa-san was announced dead by the time he reached the hospital.


Misawa never meant that much to me; he was never my favourite wrestler, and I felt that his work in recent years had got sloppy and formulaic, with a tendency to rely too much on his trademark forearm smashes and let the other worker do almost all of the hard graft. He probably should have retired years ago.

But there's still a reason that Misawa's shadow has hung over me for the past five days.

As a wrestling fan, you get used to the unexpected news that a wrestler you grew up watching, or even someone you were watching only days earlier, has passed away. But, as sad as it is, the majority of those deaths can be attached to the excesses that wrestling attracts, and almost requires - Eddie Guerrero, Brian Pillman, Chris Candido - all victims to the cocktail of painkillers, steroids and recreational drugs that are almost a necessity to succeed in an industry characterised by what Roddy Piper labelled "the sickness" - the illogical need to put a corrupt, morally bankrupt business over the needs of your own body.

Misawa perhaps suffered from the sickness in a different way, though. Japanese wrestling, puroresu, has never had the widespread drug problems that blight the North American wrestling scene, and as such it's rare we hear of a Japanese wrestler being taken before their time. But the style is hard-hitting, and more physically punishing that just about anything you could conceivably put your body through on a nightly basis - The Dynamite Kid can attest to that, as he would doubtless find himself a physical wreck even without the years of drug and alcohol abuse that only accelerated his decline. And, in a world where it's common practice for a man to be dropped with incredible force on to his head and shoulders multiple times a night, if anything it's a surprise that this tragedy had been averted for so long.

Misawa was a good fifteen or twenty years past his physical prime. At five days away from his 48th birthday, it was glaringly obvious that he was not the same worker he once was - but when it came down to it, he still tried to wrestle as if he was. And while it's scarily common for wrestlers to continue working well into their 50s, the truth is that the human body simply isn't built for that kind of punishment - and Misawa was a true casualty of that fact. While not a victim of the "sickness" that claimed the likes of Pillman or Guerrero, his was simply an aged body that couldn't take any more - this was, in many ways, a sad echo of Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler".


What this all means, though...I'm not so sure. Perhaps that's what bothers me about it all. This was a tragedy, but it was also a true surprise - genuinely nobody was expecting this, and the wrestling world was ill-prepared with how to deal with it. It's still too early to see where this will leave Pro Wrestling NOAH. As I stated earlier, though, what's truly shocking is that this kind of thing doesn't happen nearly as often as one might think - and that's a testament to the true talent of professional wrestlers not just in Japan, but all over the world, to be able to take another's life in their hands night after night, in a perverse dance of death.

What was highlighted on June 13th was the real dichotomy of the wrestling industry - Misawa's death was met with tremendous outpourings of grief from all corners of the wrestling world, and from the people of Japan, but that same wrestling world was ludicrously ill-prepared to deal with the situation, and it's tragedies like this that remind us of wrestling's shady carnival roots, and uncertain legal status as a pseudo-"sport". With none of the legal regulation that cover mainstream sports applying to professional wrestling in Japan (or in much of the rest of the world), there is no insurance policy and, bizarrely, no doctor is required to be in attendance. The doctor that attended to Misawa, attempting to revive him while still in the ring, was plucked out of the crowd.

Think about that for one moment...in a business where false footing or the slightest mistake could result in critical injury or even, in such a sad and thankfully rare case as this, in death - there is no required medical coverage. It's only through sheer luck that there was even a doctor on hand when a man suffered a fatal injury in the middle of the ring, due to what is essentially a routine move - a move taken by wrestlers the world over every single night.

This is when wrestling's unique place in culture needs to be assessed. It's not quite a sport, it's not quite drama. It's not quite real, it's not quite fake. But, to quote Michael Cole, "the hazards are real" - and between the Chris Benoit triple murder/suicide, countless deaths caused directly or indirectly by substance abuse, and now the tragic death of Mitsuharu Misawa, it's really time that the wrestling industry starts to take more responsibility, and that the rest of the world starts to take the wrestling industry a little more seriously.

For too long, the lives and careers of some of the most talented athletes in the world have been in the hands of unscrupulous and corrupt promoters, willing to turn a blind eye to their employee's "personal demons", so long as they still draw in the fans. And for too long, those same promoters have had the authority to kick a wrestler to the curb when they've been unable to work.

In an ideal world, there would be support for these men and women. Jesse Ventura called for the formation of a wrestler's union in the 1980s, but was quickly silenced by Vince McMahon, and the issue has failed to pick up steam ever since, although Darren Aronofsky called for wrestlers to be eligible for medical coverage by the Screen Actor's Guild as recently as January of this year.

When you make your living as a professional wrestler - part sportsman, part actor - and you're risking serious personal injury night after night after night, for our entertainment, it's downright insane to think that there is no independent agency you could rely on to even pay your health insurance. Between the young kids coming up and just trying to live a dream, barely able to afford to get from show to show, to the veterans still hanging on because they've got nothing left, the Randy "The Ram" Robinsons of the world, of which there are far too many...perhaps you could blame it on bad life decisions, perhaps this whole corrupt hellhole of an industry has had its day and needs to be put to pasture...or perhaps there's still something in there worth saving.

Hopefully losing one of the all-time greats will bring this dicussion to the forefront, and maybe change a few things. It's about bloody time.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Revolution Pro: When Thunder Strikes

When I started this blog, one of my first ideas was to tell the story of British wrestling's impact on what is so often seen as a Japanese invention; the "junior" style. Back in December 2011, I wrote about the invaluable experience that the original Tiger Mask and Jushin "Thunder" Liger picked up in their British excursions early in their career, allowing them to become arguably two of the most influential professional wrestlers of all time.

It was a tremendous honour then for me to be present when Liger made his long-awaited return, after 24 years, to British shores, wrestling for Revolution Pro in the historic York Hall, with his English mentor, the legendary Mark "Rollerball" Rocco at ringside.

If you could allow me a moment of personal indulgence....


Yes, that is me, sat between Mark Rocco and Jushin Liger. And, no, I won't stop going on about it.


"When Thunder Strikes" was the first RevPro show I've attended, and the first time I'd ventured deep into Bethnal Green to see a show at York Hall. My first impressions were that it was a fantastically put together, well run show, with a level of professionalism that's sorely lacking from many similar sized promotions. I've seen some complaints about the meet and greet though, personally, aside from it running a little late - something which I know through my own experience, is often unavoidable - I haven't a bad word to say about it. Perhaps I was a little blinded by the opportunity to meet some of my all-time favourites, but it was a thoroughly pleasant experience and all of the wrestlers I spoke to cannot be faulted in how polite and welcoming they are. Whether it was sharing an old anecdote with Doug Williams, Jushin Liger beckoning me to sit closer for a photo, or Prince Devitt cracking a joke, I could hardly have asked for more. The sight of Jushin Liger leaning over his signing table to give a young child a high-five will stay with me for a long time, and will always make me smile. Rocco is one of the nicest, humblest "stars" I've had the chance to meet, and Liger was a class act, and seemed genuinely blown away by the level of appreciation and affection he received.


I'll admit to not being entirely sold on all of the matches on the night - Colt Cabana's British Heavyweight Title defence against Sha Samuels fell flat, with Cabana's style not really lending itself to a chaotic brawl, and not helped by an unconvincing "Dusty finish", and elsewhere MK McKinnan did little to sell himself to me as the purported "future" of British wrestling, and the El Ligero/Mark Haskins match, while a fun opener, never felt like the heated grudge match it was billed as.

El Ligero vs. Mark Haskins - photograph by Patrick W. Reed

I was thoroughly impressed by the first tag team match of the night, pitting Project Ego against the Swords Of Essex. It was my first time seeing either team, and I felt they both played their parts to perfection, with Project Ego as the typical arrogant heels, not afraid to play the fool when the match called for it, and Swords Of Essex doing an excellent job in the sometimes tricky "all smiles" babyface role. High spots and high-flying antics galore, which might not ordinarily be my cup of tea, but it was all held together extremely well, and everyone involved made it a lot of fun to watch. If it weren't a match for the titles, I'd have thought this would have made a better opener than Ligero/Haskins, if it had been up to me.

Doug Williams vs. Hiromu Takahashi - photograph by Patrick W. Reed
Doug Williams, a last minute replacement for the injured Noam Dar, against Hiromu Takahashi may well have been my match of the night. I'm not overly familiar with Takahashi, but I've followed Doug's career for many years, and had the pleasure of watching him perform live on several occasions. Given that this was, as far as I'm aware, Williams' first appearance since his release from TNA, this was far more of a homecoming for him than a showcase for the New Japan Young Lion. As ever, "The Anarchist" was an absolute delight to watch, revelling in a somewhat unfamiliar babyface role, while never losing the slightly sadistic edge that's always made him a consumate heel. There's not a lot that can be said about Williams that's not been said already, but the phrase "no wasted motion" comes immediately to mind - he never looks at a loss for what to do, and everything he does is for a purpose, and that makes for a solid, believable, and very enjoyable encounter. It was an absolute thrill to see Williams dust off the old "Chaos Theory" Rolling German Suplex for the first time in so long, for a well-deserved win.

Marty Scurll's match with MK McKinnan, as I alluded to earlier, fell a little flat for me. McKinnan seemed a bland babyface, with little to make him stand out from the pack, and relied far too heavily on a number of obvious crowd-pleasing spots. Scurll, at least, has come into his own with his current cocky heel persona, and carried himself with an air of confidence and stardom that was perhaps lacking in him earlier. A stunning end sequence wasn't enough to save a lacklustre match, unfortunately.

The big tag team match pitting Dave Mastiff & Davey Boy Smith Jr. against Andy Boy Simmonz & Rampage Brown was a strange one; with so many heavyweights in the ring, there was very little flash or extravagance, though Davey Boy pulled out a gorgeous takedown into a Cross Armbreaker, and an innovative, if clumsy, set-up for the Sharpshooter. The finish seemed awkward and out of nowhere, but allowed the feud between Mastiff and Simmonz to continue while protecting the big guest star - a perfectly good match, but felt marred by not really allowing either of the babyfaces to take a solid role which, in turn, kept us from seeing the "hot tag" moment that the match could probably have done with.

While the Cabana/Samuels match was marred by the problems I mentioned earlier, the wild out of the ring brawling was a welcome change of pace, as no other match on the card had yet gone down that route. I don't know if RevPro had underestimated the fan support that Sha Samuels would receive in "his manor" of the East End, but it was odd to hear a reasonable smattering of boos for the usually much-loved Cabana, and it didn't play well into the false finish.

Team SHAG (Colt Cabana & Greg Burridge) reunited - photograph by Patrick W. Reed
The highlight of that match, for me, though, was in the aftermath, which saw the arrival of Bethnal Green's own Greg Burridge, in what I believe would be his debut RevPro appearance, cutting a spirited, borderline demented promo, reforming the short-lived "Team SHAG" with Cabana ahead of RevPro's next York Hall date in October. I don't know what it is about him, but Burridge is someone I'm always entertained by.


Finally, the main event...what is there to say? Following a by-the-numbers, though believably heartfelt, promo from Mark Rocco putting over the British scene, there was a fantastic buzz about the place. The moment Liger's iconic entrance theme hit, the place erupted, and the atmosphere was incredible - nothing, at any wrestling show I've been to, can compare. I saw Ric Flair at the O2 for TNA, and that moment wasn't half as special as Jushin Liger in York Hall - the disbelief, and the amazement, at seeing such a defining, iconic figure, was palpable.

Jushin Liger vs. Prince Devitt - photograph by Patrick W. Reed
I honestly expected Liger to all but go through the motions for this match - he didn't need to pull out all the stops, it was enough for him just to be there - but perhaps against Prince Devitt, who I would argue may be pound-for-pound the best all-rounder in wrestling today, it's just not possible to have a bad match. It was fast-paced, competitive and extremely hard-hitting, while still allowing Liger to hit the majority of his signature spots, and even to have a little bit of fun interacting with the crowd. The match was classy, with only the odd glimmer of Devitt's current (brilliant) NJPW heel persona, but plenty of believable near falls and genuinely exciting spots - be it Liger's rolling senton from the apron, a picture-perfect Liger Bomb, or Devitt getting insane height on some of the most stunning, vicious double stomps I have ever seen. Of course, Devitt went over, but no one came out of this looking bad, and I can't imagine anyone in the crowd was disappointed.

Jushin Liger & Prince Devitt - photograph by Patrick W. Reed



As a whole, there were mishaps, but I've never known a show without them. The atmosphere was superb, the wrestling was mostly of an excellent standard, and gives me no small amount of confidence in the British wrestling scene at the moment.

Not only that, but it will go down as perhaps the friendliest wrestling show I've ever attended. Normally, the prospect of being approached by lone wrestling fans wanting to strike up a conversation is something that would give me cold sweats, but everyone I met and spoke to was an absolute delight, and I hope to bump into them all again one day on this long, strange road I'm on...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A British Tiger: Redux - Jushin Liger In London

An inordinately long time ago, I wrote on this very blog about the importance of the British wrestling scene in the early careers of two of the most iconic Junior Heavyweights in Japanese wrestling; Tiger Mask, and Jushin "Thunder" Liger.

 It's with tremendous pleasure, then, that I can now address the next link in that chain.

The remit for 2Falls was never really to discuss the modern scene, but instead to celebrate a disappearing art form, and to shine a light on those who may otherwise fall into obscurity. However, we're not writing in a vaccuum and, from time to time, present-day professional wrestling throws us a curveball, a little pleasant surprise. Once upon a time, it was the great Johnny Saint setting foot in a CHIKARA ring. Now, it's RevolutionPro bringing Jushin "Thunder" Liger back to this fair land.






On June 18th, at York Hall, Jushin Liger will make his first UK appearance in 24 long years, and his first appearance since taking on the Liger identity. Not only that, but bringing things full circle, his old adversary, the great Mark "Rollerball" Rocco will be at ringside for Liger's match with Prince Devitt.


It's not often I get to view wrestling history first-hand, but it will be an honour and a privelege to be ringside for Liger's return to the British ring, and there could be nothing more fitting than for him to do so in the presence of Rollerball.

Roll on June 18th...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Ultramantis Black Interview


Here at Two Falls, Two Submissions Or A Knock-Out, it's pretty obvious that we love British wrestling, but that's not all. We're passionate about all aspects of this wacky sport, and one promotion that has long since captured our imagination is Philadelphia's CHIKARA.

The brainchild of Mike Quackenbush, CHIKARA is a colourful, family-friendly celebration of all that makes pro-wrestling great; combining Lucha Libre, Puroresu, Lancashire Catch and American style pro-wrestling with an atmosphere of fun seldom seen in today's wrestling scene, and in-depth, sweeping, and often convoluted storylines that owe more to the world of comic books than anything found in wrestling's history, and all propped up by a colourful cast of characters including wrestling ants, ancient Egyptian snakes, demons, goblins, and old-timey baseball players!


Not least among CHIKARA's familiar faces is the great and devious Ultramantis Black, one of only four men to have wrestled on CHIKARA's inaugural show and remain with the company today, and whose dabblings in the occult and desires for world domination, have driven many of the promotion's most compelling stories.


Writing for The Shooting Star Press, our very own "Bomber" Pat was lucky enough to get this interview with the Devious One recently;





2Falls: Traditionally in American pro-wrestling, a masked man has been seen as having something to hide, some reason to conceal their true identity, whilst in lucha libre it could be said that a luchadore's mask IS his true identity, and the latter seems to be true of CHIKARA. What does the mask mean to you? What does the concept of the mask mean to CHIKARA as a whole?


Ultramantis: You are exactly right - to me, the mask IS my identity. It goes beyond being simply one piece of a "gimmick" or costume. Were there no mask, there would be no UltraMantis. I think the mask, in general, is symbolic of the CHIKARA brand as a whole. Some might say that is a bad thing, that it stereotypes the company as being solely a lucha libre promotion or one based exclusively on characters - thus downplaying the actual wrestling. But I believe the entire iconography has lent itself to part of what has made CHIKARA such a recognizable entity within professional wrestling today.



2 Falls: At CHIKARA's first iPPV, High Noon, you actually put your mask on the line - what goes through your mind to when you agree to take a risk like that? What would losing the mask mean to you?


Ultramantis: No wrestler puts their mask on the line unless there is a legitimate blood feud to settle. I didn't take the stipulation lightly when it was first proposed. Again, losing the mask would have meant destroying my identity within the sport itself. For me, quite frankly, that would have meant the end of my wrestling career. I simply would not and could not continue with my persona torn asunder.




2Falls: As someone who's been with CHIKARA since the beginning, you've seen countless guest stars pass through - from the 123 Kid to Johnny Saint, and from The Great Sasuke to Demolition - who, for you, was the most memorable, or the one you were most excited about working with?

Ultramantis: That is difficult to answer. It is certainly humbling to be able to share a locker room with some of the names that have passed through CHIKARA - men and women I watched in awe both before and after getting into professional wrestling. Certainly the first time I was able to watch Johnny Saint perform in person, the first time Manami Toyota performed in the States, etc. Many people don't remember this, but JJ Dillon once appeared on an early CHIKARA show and I wish he would have been able to perform on a larger scale at some point later in the company's existence. I've always been a great admirer of the men and woman who made their marks in wrestling primarily as managers. Such a crucial, and difficult to master, role.




2Falls: Growing up as a young supernatural evil insect overlord, which wrestlers had the biggest influence on you? Particularly, which masked wrestlers?

Ultramantis: My primary influences in wrestling were Eddie Gilbert, Kevin Sullivan, and Art Barr. However, I've been fascinated by masked wrestlers since the first day I ever started watching the sport. Mr. Wrestling II, Masked Superstar, The Bullet, Santo, Mil, Sweet Brown Sugar, Mr. X, Kendo Nagasaki (UK), Lazer Tron, Stagger Lee, Midnight Rider, Sasuke, Tiger Mask, The Interns, The Machines, The Spoiler, Cruel Connection! I could go on forever - so much awesomeness when it comes to the legacy left by the masked men (and women) of the sport's past.




2Falls: Staying on the topic of masks - over the years we've seen the mask evolve from the basic, yet iconic, designs of the likes of El Santo and Blue Demon to the more elaborate, the likes of Jushin "Thunder" Liger, and beyond. What have been your personal favourite masks?

Ultramantis: I'm a fan of both - the old school minimalism of hoods like The Destroyer. As well as the more elaborate ones that we see in both Mexico and Japan today. I enjoyed some of the more outlandish masks and ring attire of some of the wrestlers in early Osaka Pro and that certainly played a role in my own early mask designs. Currently, besides the work of my own maskmaker Jun of MJ Factory in Hawaii, I most admire the mask work of Mister Cacao of Fukumenmania in Japan.



2Falls: It is the distant future, and aliens or highly evolved mutants have uncovered a DVD with five wrestling matches on it, the only wrestling matches to have survived the ravages of time, so therefore they are all that is left to define what pro wrestling was. If it were up to you (as any apocalyptic scenario I assume would be), which matches would they be?

Ultramantis: The original Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl, KOTDM 95 Funk/Cactus, any Tiger Mask vs Dynamite Kid, SD Jones/King Kong Bundy from Wrestlemania I, & the main event in Santo Gold's Blood Circus.



2Falls: Stepping away from wrestling for just a moment; music seems to be quite important to you - with the design of your T-shirts mirroring that of classic albums by the likes of Black Flag, Bad Brains and The Smiths, and the name of your new "Best Of" DVD borrowing from The Smiths' "Strangeways Here We Come". What's been on the Ultramantis stereo lately?

Ultramantis: It constantly changes. In the past week I've been listening to a lot of Billy Bragg, Give, Low, the 4 Skins, Youth of Today, Spoon, Redskins, Ghost, Floor, Grimes, Angelic Upstarts, Obituary, Sleep, Daughn Gibson. Weird mixes. One thing I don't get to do as much anymore as I'd like to since wrestling consumes many of my weekends is attend live shows. Makes it more difficult to keep on top of what's going on within the various music scenes.



2Falls: Speaking of The Smiths - I recently purchased the Ultramantis "Meat Is Murder" T-shirt, which, as well as reflecting your love for the band, doubles as a reference to your veganism. Between maintaining muscle mass, sourcing vegan materials for ring attire, and just finding good vegan food while you're on the road, is it difficult to maintain the Vegan lifestyle in your profession?

Ultramantis: Well all of the things you mentioned all present challenges in their own way. But they are all just little obstacles that you find your way around. I've embraced the lifestyle for so long that it all just becomes second nature and you learn to adapt. I love professional wrestling but I've never even considered sacrificing my principles in order to better fit into some pre-conceived notion of what is or isn't expected of a wrestler to excel in the sport. I don't need to eat animals and neither does anyone else. More and more, we're seeing athletes prove that a vegan diet doesn't make you weak or inferior. Its not even taboo in wrestling anymore.



2Falls: You bill yourself as the Mayor Of Parts Unknown - that seems like it would be a difficult position to maintain. What was your electoral platform, and how do you keep the notably unruly citizens placated?

Ultramantis: I actually came into power after a bloody coup so no electoral politicking was necessary. The good people of Parts Unknown seem to appreciate my Great & Deviousness so its been relatively problem free.


And finally...

2Falls: What can fans expect from CHIKARA in 2012, and what does Ultramantis have in store for us?

Ultramantis: BIG things that will surely shock and awe! Another iPPV is on the horizon in June so humans on every corner of the globe can check out UMB and CHIKARA streaming live in all of its technicolour glory. I myself plan to finally bring Reagan, Thatcher, and Brezhnev together and bring peace to this cold, cold world. Many thanks for the interview!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

An English Tiger...





From English town halls to the Tokyo Dome...





If you ask what the greatest wrestling match of all time is, you're never going to receive a definite answer, but two names opposite each other that will pop up time and time again are Tiger Mask and the Dynamite Kid. They clashed several times from 1981 to 1983 in New Japan, with matches so far ahead of their time that, even now, they're as fresh, exciting and compelling as ever before, with unique high spots, incredible technical wrestling, and absolutely masterful high flying. What is immediately clear is that both men are once-in-a-lifetime talents, with Tiger Mask in particular showing extraordinary athletic ability. Tiger Mask's innovative style, which gelled perfectly with that of the Dynamite Kid, was enough to inspire countless junior heavyweight wrestlers for years to come, and revolutionised the way smaller wrestlers were perceived in Japan.

Now, why are we discussing this on Two Falls, Two Submissions Or A Knock-Out? Well, while the Dynamite Kid's British roots are well-known - Dynamite was born and raised in Golborne, Lancashire, and prior to finding worldwide fame as one half of the British Bulldogs and one of the most skilled professional wrestlers of his age, the Dynamite Kid was a regular on World Of Sport - he's not the only British connection in the Tiger Mask story.


Satoru Sayama grew up in Shimonoseki, Japan - about as far removed from Dynamite Kid's Lancashire roots as you can get - where, as a young boy, he idolised Japanese wrestling icon Antonio Inoki, and the high-flying Mexican luchadore Mil Mascaras. After years of schooling in the martial arts, Sayama trained under Inoki, and debuted in 1976 for New Japan Pro Wrestling. However, given his small size, few believed he would ever make a name for himself in the giant's playground of professional wrestling, and Sayama was forced to ply his trade elsewhere, travelling to Mexico, and to Europe.


It was in Europe, where Sayama first came to prominence, appearing on World Of Sport under the slightly racist name of "Sammy Lee", complete with Bruce Lee style yellow jumpsuit, hoping to cash in on England's craze for kung-fu at the time. In English rings, Sayama flourished, amazing everyone who saw him with his fast-paced style, martial arts expertise, and utterly unique offensive style, with commentator Kent Walton often proclaiming him to be amongst the very best in the world.

In 1981, with New Japan looking to attract more young fans to its product, it was Sayama they chose to portray the popular anime wrestling character Tiger Mask - a gimmick that, even moreso than Sammy Lee, could have been a career killer for a lesser worker, but instead, Sayama was able to take the gimmick to unimaginable heights, lending it an almost mythic status that persists to this day, and pave the way for generations of junior heavyweights to follow him.

It was under the gimmick of Tiger Mask that Sayama would come to face Dynamite Kid, a man he had met, and on at least one occassion shared a ring with, while wrestling in the UK. Dynamite had been hand-picked as the man to put over Tiger Mask in his debut match - and he did a masterful job, creating a series of matches that will be remembered for years to come.




Given the success of the Tiger Mask character, New Japan once again looked to the original Tiger Mask anime for inspiration, and came up with the heel antithesis of the comic book hero Tiger Mask - the villainous Black Tiger. Once again, New Japan looked to English shores for the man to don the mask. Mark "Rollerball" Rocco, a fourth-generation wrestler, a hard-hitting, fast-paced, vicious and always exciting heel from Manchester, certainly no stranger to English grapple fans, had wrestled a series of highly regarded matches with Sammy Lee in the UK, and was entrusted with the task of repeating the job overseas. Rocco did not disappoint, putting on a run of matches that rival even those of Dynamite Kid in Sayama's back catalogue.



While Sayama and Rocco's time under the iconic masks would prove to be short, following Sayama's shock retirement from the sport, their work, along with that of the Dynamite Kid, in cementing Tiger Mask as a legendary figure in the annals of Japanese wrestling history, would reverberate down the decades. Four more men would don both the Tiger and Black Tiger masks, with countless variations appearing all over the world. Sayama himself would go on to become a hugely influential martial arts trainer, promoting and fighting in a number of "shoot-style" promotions that some argue helped open the doors for what we now know as Mixed Martial Arts in Japan. Today, Sayama still makes occassional appearances under the mask in showcase matches, and despite his advancing years and expanding waistline, still possesses enough of the old magic to put many wrestlers half his age and half his size to shame.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for his old rival The Dynamite Kid, who has been left partially paralysed and almost penniless as a direct result of the effects of his hard-hitting wrestling style, and the years of abuse he put his body through, or of the original Black Tiger, Mark Rocco, who was forced to retire from wrestling in 1991 after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition.


The story doesn't end with Sayama and Mark Rocco, though - in 1989, New Japan looked to replicate the success of Tiger Mask by once again giving a wrestler a gimmick adapted from a popular anime. This time, the character was "Jushin Liger", from the anime of the same name - while the Tiger Mask character had been a professional wrestler in the source material, the character of Liger was a teenage boy descended from a legendary warrior, with the magical power to cover his entire body into demonic biomechanical armour.

And, once again, they looked to a New Japan trainee who had initially been forced to leave the company due to his small size, and had gone off on a training excursion to Mexico. Keiichi Yamada was left almost starved while training in Mexico, so New Japan officials took pity on him, and paid him to return to Japan and continue his training. Soon, he would debut at the tender age of 19 and, in something of an echo of Sayama, would incorporate a variety of martial arts techniques into his wrestling style. Despite winning New Japan's "Young Lion's Cup", Yamada failed to make a name for himself, and travelled to Europe to further his wrestling career. Like Sayama before him, he ended up in England, wrestling as "Flying" Fuji Yamada. There, he wrestled the top stars of the day, often tagging with England's own "Japanese" star, Kendo Nagasaki.

In yet another echo of Sayama's career before him, Yamada would put on a series of incredible matches against Mark "Rollerball" Rocco throughout 1986 and 1987, and the two would trade the World Middleweight Title a number of times.

In 1989, after another brief run in New Japan, an excursion in Calgary's Stampede Wrestling, and a quick return to the UK's All Star Wrestling, New Japan chose Yamada for the Jushin Liger gimmick and, once again, he would embark on a series of phenomenal matches with his old rival, Rollerball Rocco - this time with Rocco reprising the role of Black Tiger. Liger would go on to wrestle every Black Tiger to date, and like Tiger Mask before him, he would become one of the most recognised, well-respected wrestlers in the world - and it might never have happened, were it not for the masked men's shared experience wrestling the likes of Marc Rocco on ITV on a Saturday afternoon.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Johnny Saint - 21st Century Man?



It would be almost impossible for us to discuss classic British wrestling without a look at one of its finest exponents, Johnny Saint. Debuting on his 18th birthday in 1958, Saint was trained by the legendary Billy Robinson (according to legend, even after training Saint for two years, Robinson never revealed the well-guarded secret that wrestling's results were pre-determined), and made his name as a true technician, seemingly effortlessly countering the most complex of holds in the blink of an eye, and tying up even the most skilled of opponents in knots with a seemingly endless array of submission holds, and an expert, elegant approach to catch wrestling - with a little glint-in-the-eye mischief thrown in for good measure, as with his more unorthodox maneuvers, such as the Lady Of The Lake, which has perplexed many an opponent over the years.



When the feel of the wrestling landscape changed in the '80s, favouring showmanship and pantomime more than prowess between the ropes, Saint, despite being the World Lightweight Champion (a title he would hold for the better part of 20 years), began to be viewed by many as something of a relic of past times. While he could still be relied on upon to put on a true clinic, and often had a wealth of fan support behind him, it seemed that his days as a featured attraction were coming to an end.


Like many of his wrestling brethren, Johnny Saint found himself at a loose end when Greg Dyke made the decision to cancel ITV's wrestling coverage in 1988. His career winding down, and the British scene left for dead, Saint resorted to wrestling overseas, mostly in continental Europe, but the writing seemed to be on the wall for him, and most of his peers. Saint took few bookings throughout the 1990s, though did embark on a tour of Japan with Michinoku Pro in 1996, before his official retirement from the ring later that year.

But, amazingly, this entry is not a retrospective look back at the career of this wrestling legend. More than ten years after his retirement, Saint returned to the ring in LDN Wrestling, defeating Johnny Kidd in a match that showed that, despite being in his late 60s, the "Master Of A Thousand Holds" could still hold his own with the best of them, and didn't seem to have a spot of ring rust.


In 2009, at almost 68 years of age, Johnny Saint made his American debut for CHIKARA, teaming with Mike Quackenbush and Jorge "Skayde" Rivera as "The Masters Of A Thousand Holds" in their annual King Of Trios tournament.

The colourful, cartoonish, "live action comic book" world of CHIKARA - with it's wrestling ants, supernatural monsters, and time-travelling ancient Egyptians - might seem a world away from the working men's clubs of Manchester where Saint first made a living, but beneath the somewhat unique, post-modern veneer, CHIKARA is ripe with a love of wrestling's long and illustrious history, with its founder, Mike Quackenbush, often credited the "Lancashire style" as one of his key influences, and Johnny Saint was welcomed with open arms as an unlikely member of CHIKARA's extended family.

While "The Masters Of A Thousand Holds" were eliminated in the tournament - losing in the quarter-finals to the equally impressive team of Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli and fellow British veteran Dave Taylor, collectively known as "Team Uppercut" - it was apparent that there was a whole new audience of fans enthralled by Johnny Saint.


This weekend (July 30th and 31st) at CHIKARA's "CHIKARAsaurus Rex: King Of Sequel", in Reading, PA and Philadelphia, PA respectively, Saint will make his long-awaited return to the promotion. On Night 1, for the first time on American soil, Saint will square off against a familiar opponent, Johnny Kidd. On Night 2, we will be treated to an absolute dream match, as Saint and Kidd find themselves on opposite sides of the ring, though on this occasion tagging with modern-day masters of the mat - Johnny Saint partnered once again with Mike Quackenbush, and Johnny Kidd with Colt Cabana.

In the process, Johnny Saint has equaled the record held by the great Lou Thesz, becoming only the second man to have wrestled in seven consecutive decades, and doesn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down just yet - perhaps he truly will prove himself to be a 21st Century Man.



Photo Credits:
#1 taken from http://www.onlineworldofwrestling.com
#2 taken from http://slam.canoe.ca
#3 taken from Wrestling Review No. 62, author's personal collection

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Three Count

The Three Count is where I'll look to answer three questions about British wrestling that hopefully you guys will find interesting. To get the ball rolling, we have questions on The Royal Brothers, weight classes and Jushin Liger, if you have any questions that you want to see answered feel free to ask them on our Facebook wall, on our Twitter page or even drop us an email at 2falls2subs1ko@gmail.com


1. Why did The Royal Brothers have different surnames?

Vic Faulkner and Bert Royal
The Royal Brothers were undoubtedly one of the most popular tag teams of the televised era but eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed one thing about the brother duo, they had different surnames. In this day and age it is not uncommon for siblings to have different surnames but the brothers differing names had nothing to do with their parentage, so what was the deal with Bert Royal and Vic Faulkner?

The answer lies with their father, Lewis Faulkner. Lewis was a wrestler himself and at the time that Herbert Faulkner was getting into the business Lewis was wrestling under the family name. So Herbert took the name Bert Royal as his ring name. By the time Vic Faulkner broke into the business, Lewis Faulkner had changed his ring name to Vic Hesselle, leaving the younger brother free to using the Faulkner surname.


2. What were the weight classes in British Wrestling?

Nowhere else in the professional wrestling world have weight classes ever been so diligently adhered to than during the televised era of British wrestling. Generally a wrestler would only wrestle opponents from within his weight class, however on occasion wrestlers from different weight classes would clash in what were known as 'Catchweight' contests. The weight classes in British professional as set down in the Lord Mountevans Rules were as follows;

Lightweight (154 pound limit - 11st)
Welterweight (165 pound limit - 11st 11lb)
Middleweight (176 pound limit - 12st 8lb)
Heavy middleweight (187 pound limit - 13st 5lb)
Light heavyweight (198 pound limit - 14st 2lb)
Mid-heavyweight (209 pound limit- 14st 13lb)
Heavyweight (no limit)


3. Wait... Jushin 'Thunder' Liger used to wrestle in England?

Photobucket
Yes, indeed. The man now known around the world as Jushin 'Thunder' Liger wrestled in England during the late 80s under the name 'Flying' Fuji Yamada. Liger's time in England would be very fruitful, winning the World Heavy middleweight on two occasions. Both title victories came over Marc 'Rollerball' Rocco, as did both title losses. The last of these title changes was shown on television and can be seen here.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Spotlight On...."Exotic" Adrian Street


Name: "Exotic" Adrian Street

Hometown: Brynmawr, South Wales

Date Of Birth: December 5th, 1940

Height: 5'7"

Weight: 235lbs

Debuted: August 8th, 1957

Signature Moves: Sleeper Hold, Crucifix, Cross Body







My love for Adrian Street as a forgotten figure, not just in the fairly esoteric world of professional wrestling, but in pop culture altogether, cannot be understated;



As far back as the early ’60s, this coalminer’s son, former bodybuilder and all-round legitimate hard bastard was wrestling in front of blue collar working class Northerners, parading around with bleached blonde hair, glitter make-up and flamboyant outfits inspired by historical dandies such as Joachim Murat and, of course, professional wrestling’s own great dandy, Gorgeous George, and blowing cheeky kisses to the no-nonsense tough guys of the beer, spit and sawdust world of British wrestling.



Think about that for a second. A good ten years before glam rock took off, “Exotic” Adrian was already mincing about in front of crowds of rugged working men angered to the point of apoplexy by his antics, and in front of professional fighters sometimes nearly twice his size.



Adrian’s influence reached far beyond the world of wrestling. As well as seeing countless imitations of his act, Street became known later in his career for designing ring attire for generations of pro-wrestlers on either side of the Atlantic, not only that, but his designs graced classic London boutiques like Granny Takes A Trip, and The Carnaby Cavern, and have been worn by, amongst others, David Bowie, Elton John, Adam Ant, Mick Ronson and Marc Bolan - it’s entirely possible that glam rock itself might not have ever looked quite the same were it not for “The Exotic One”.





However, for Street, his groundbreaking character was something of a happy accident. After abandoning his original moniker of Kid Tarzan Jonathan, and modelling himself after the likes of "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers - who he had only seen photographs of in wrestling magazines - Street bleached his hair, and invested in a baby blue, silver-lined robe and matching trunks, wishing to look every part the champion wrestler. The British fans didn't give Adrian quite the response he was looking for; instead of the awe and amazement he'd counted on, he received laughs, wolf whistles, catcalls and shouts of "Isn't she pretty?".



While initially frustrated, Adrian began to realise that any reaction was a good reaction, and his outfits and antics became steadily more outrageous - the make-up more extravagant, the robes and gowns more lavish, the hair longer, and a little more pout in his lips and a skip in his step. And the more the fans hated him, the more they'd pay to see him in the main event, in the hope that the tough guy transvestite might finally get his big mouth shut - not counting on the fact that, beneath the prancing and the prissy antics, Adrian Street was as tough as they come, and a proficient technical wrestler.





Having held titles in several weight divisions all over Great Britain and Europe, in the early '80s Street, and his perennial manager Miss Linda, headed to North America, where he wrestled for the great Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, fought some of the biggest names of Lucha Libre in Mexico - Mil Mascaras, the Guerreros, and Dos Caras to name but a few - before, at the age of 41, he finally found himself in the United States.



Even to a crowd more accustomed to the flashier, glitzier side of pro-wrestling, "The Exotic One", with his lavish costumes, facepaint and female valet in tow, was like nothing they had ever seen and, in the Southern States, Street's antagonising antics riled up the conservative audiences to an almost unheard of degree.



While never working for the WWF (allegedly turning down an offer to work as the manager of a British "skinhead" tag team on moral grounds), Street's move to the United States was a resounding success, and saw him face off against some of the biggest names of the day, from Randy Savage to Dusty Rhodes, and set the wheels in motion for his recording career, and a string of film appearances. Later in life, he created the Skull Krushers wrestling school, and continued designing ring attire for the American stars - perhaps most famously creating the outfits Mick Foley would wear as Dude Love - while stating his ambition to continue wrestling as long as he was able, in order to claim he had wrestled in at least seven decades.



Street's influence can easily be seen on the more flamboyant aspects of pro-wrestling on either side of the Atlantic, and most obviously in the later sexually ambiguous characters of Goldust, The West Hollywood Blondes, Billy & Chuck and, most apparently of all, Rico & "Miss Jackie", but perhaps could be best summed up by Adrian himself, who claimed - "Before I came to the States, no one was wearing face paint, no one was wearing spandex, and no one at that time was entering the ring with a lady valet. Nowadays, all of these things are commonplace in pro wrestling."





Wrestling has seen a wealth of flamboyant, extravagant and outrageous personalities, but there will perhaps never be another quite as "Exotic" as Adrian Street.